May 13, 2004

Darwin's Ghost, Steve Jones

Jones has kept the order of the argument in The Origin of Species but updated all the interior chapter matter with current biological and geological examples. He even keeps Darwin's descriptive sub-chapter headings and chapter summaries. It's about right for an ambitious hammock read, and suggests Further Reading (both books and papers) at the end.

P. 226:

Lungfish are living fossils: animals with an agile and creative past the nowadays have sunk into conservatism. Long ago, they slowed down, and they have stayed unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, while their relatives moved on.
Bone contains many cells, all with a nucleus. The hard material squeezes each one so that its size is a measure of how much DNA it once contained. Early in lungfish history, the size of the cell nuclei—and the amount of genetic material—began to creep up. Soon, the animals had hundreds of times as much as did their relatives. As it did, evolution slowed. Now, the lungfish are stuffed with DNA (most of it with no apparent function) and their evolution has stalled altogether. The fit between DNA content, a lethargic lifestyle and evolutionary sloth is widespread. To copy that chemical takes energy. Bacteria are speedy and have no excess genetic material, while salamanders, torpid as they are, are filled with DNA. Plants, too, have a close fit between habit and nucleic acid content. All weeds have small genomes, while more established plants are packed with DNA and can take a month to make a single egg cell. Whether an indolent life allows the amount of genetic material to build up, or whether the extra dose itself slows down evolution, nobody knows.

Spam is very expensive.

Or, if you want to haul around some lengthy archaic information yourself, you could have the Project Gutenberg edition of On The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection. Whether it will delay your reproduction by even a month, I wouldn't say.

ISBN: 0375501037

So wrote clew in Science. | TrackBack
And thus wrote others:

weird story is it true


yclept: at May 24, 2004 12:06 PM

Well, the Genome Size Database lists the marbled lungfish as having the largest known genome in a chordate/vertebrate (and some pufferfishes as having the smallest known).


yclept: clew at May 24, 2004 06:05 PM
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